Ancient Monuments

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Tom-a'-Caisteal, castle 400m south of Kirkton

A Scheduled Monument in Aird and Loch Ness, Highland

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Latitude: 57.4728 / 57°28'22"N

Longitude: -4.3286 / 4°19'43"W

OS Eastings: 260449

OS Northings: 844895

OS Grid: NH604448

Mapcode National: GBR H8PZ.7XQ

Mapcode Global: WH3F9.GFZN

Entry Name: Tom-a'-Caisteal, castle 400m S of Kirkton

Scheduled Date: 27 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11880

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Kirkhill

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Aird and Loch Ness

Traditional County: Inverness-shire


The monument comprises the remains of a small later medieval castle situated on the crest of a small rocky hill in woodland to the S of Kirkton Farm, approximately 1km S of the shore of Beauly Firth. It is on record in 1206 as occupied by Baron Thomson, a vassal of the Lovats, but by 1220 was in the possession of the Corbets, Barons of Farnaway, where it remained until 1498.

Tom-a'-Caisteal castle occupies a small but prominent rocky, steep-sided knoll between the confluence of two streams. Its oval-shaped summit has two levels, the higher being on the W. Overall, the top measures 40m from E to W by 18m transversely. On the N edge of the summit is a roughly rectangular hollow measuring about 16m from E to W by 3m, bounded on the N with an overgrown rubble wall 0.3m high and sub-divided by another rubble wall. There is a similar structure at the E end of the site at the lower level. It measures approximately 9m by 4m and has a 1m break in the S side. Both of these two rectangular depressions are interpreted as buildings. Abutting the S end of the larger, northernmost building is a hollow which seems to have been enclosed by a bank or wall, but its purpose is uncertain. Traces of a wall are to be found round part of the W edge of the summit.

The steep-sided gully on the S side of the knoll, which isolates it from the spur of which it was once part, is probably a natural water-worn channel, possibly enhanced for added defence. There is no indication to suggest an earlier fortification, such as a dun or a fort, occupied the site before the castle's construction in the late 12th or early 13th centuries.

The area to be scheduled is roughly oval on plan, to include the remains described and an area around in which evidence for their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological and historical significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: Structural elements of the castle survive and are clearly visible in the landscape. Although the buildings only now survive as negative features and much of the masonry of the castle must have tumbled downslope, there is no record of earlier archaeological investigation of this site. It therefore retains the potential to provide information about the date and nature of its construction and subsequent use.

Contextual characteristics: Tom-a'-Caisteal may be seen as one of a range of later medieval castle types that are found in Scotland. Varying in form, they chart the extent of royal power, reflecting where land was granted to incomers in return for military service. The majority lie in peripheral parts of the kingdom where political unrest might be expected. They therefore indicate where to find local power centres, often undocumented. They also have the potential to enable us to understand the impact of feudalism, patterns of land tenure and the evolution of the local landscape.

The site has the potential to add to the knowledge of the construction and use of early stone castles in Scotland. The clear archaeological potential of the site, combined with the documentary evidence, make the research potential of the site of exceptional value. The close proximity of the castle to the former church at Kirkton is a relationship indicative of the arrival of Anglo-French influence in the region. The castle is of value for comparison and contrast to other modest seigneurial residences, both in the region and nationally.

Associative characteristics: While we still have much to learn about the date, form and development of medieval castles in Scotland, they reflect the introduction of new, southern political ideas (feudalism) and sometimes foreign forms of castle building. With its characteristically prominent position, the construction and occupation of a castle such as Tom-a'-Caisteal, would have spoken loudly of the presence of new lords and new ways of doing things. Its location overlooking the former church at Kirkton and the surrounding agricultural land of the coastal strip along the Beauly Firth emphasised this visibility.

The importance of the site is greatly enhanced by its historical associations. Research indicates that in 1206 Baron Thomson, a vassal of the Lovats, appears to have occupied the castle, but the Corbets, Barons of Farnaway, possessed it by 1220 and until 1498.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is an extant reminder of the advance of a new form of centralised, royal authority into northern Scotland during the 12th and 13th centuries. As a centre of local lordship, it can contribute to the relatively small body of knowledge for this process, as well as evidence for later medieval rural landuse, settlement and economy. The castle buildings have the potential to provide information about its date, construction and use which can contribute to our understanding of the development and use of medieval castles in the Highland zone, and in Scotland in general. The loss of this important castle site would erode our ability to understand the development of stone castles in Scotland and later medieval lordship and society in the region.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NH64SW 9. It is recorded in the Highland Council SMR as NH64SW0009.


ISSFC 1885, 'The Bunchrew District (excursion to)', TRANS INVERNESS SCI SOC FIELD CLUB 1, 82.

Wallace T, 'Notes on Ancient Remains in the Beauly Valley, Inverness-shire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 20, 340.

RCAHMS 1979, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF NORTH-EAST INVERNESS, INVERNESS DISTRICT, HIGHLAND REGION, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series No. 8, 16, 27, Nos. 98, 207, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Wallace T D 1893, 'Ancient remains in the Beauly Valley', TRANS INVERNESS SCI SOC FIELD CLUB 3, 134.

Wallace T 1921, 'Archaeological notes', TRANS INVERNESS SCI SOC FIELD CLUB, 8, 115.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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